“Do you love me?” asked Josephine.
“Of course I love you.” said Arthur “You know that.”
Josephine looked suddenly distraught. “Okay.”
Arthur took her hand. “What is it? Why are you upset?”
Josephine looked him in the eyes, her whole body tense. “I want you to meet my daughter today.”
Whenever girls had asked him to see their children before, Arthur had always been scared. Sometimes he cut things off right there, told them he just wasn’t ready. Josephine though, somehow her invitation filled him with pride. He was going to meet her baby.
“It’s an honor.” he said. All the nervous tension broke on her face.
They held hands all the way to the facility, Arthur only taking his hand away to confirm directions in the Skimmer. It was visitor’s day, so the place was crowded with couples and single women.
The woman at the front desk smiled. “Are you going to be removing today?” she asked, pushing information into her computer pad.
“No,’ said Josephine “Just viewing.”
“Alright.” said the receptionist. She turned to Aurther “First time?” He squeezed Josephine’s hand.
Even with the crowd, the facility processed them quickly, and soon they were standing in front of a white bank of walls, glowing convex spheres protruding from the wall. There were numbers and names carved on the glowing spheres. Josephine hurried to a particular sphere, her face bubbling with anticipation. She pressed both palms against the sphere and it turned a soft shade of blue. There was a light hiss of air as the sphere rotated, exposing an infant with closed eyes and pink lips. Josephine touched the sphere lovingly.
“This is my daughter.” she said. Arthur looked at the tiny person.
“When did you have her?” he asked
“I was nineteen. Still under my parents health insurance. Putting her under was the hardest thing I ever had to do.” Arthurpulled Josephine close to him.
“You did the right thing.” he said. Most women had their children early and put them in stasis until they had enough savings to provide for housing and education. Doctors could prolong life, but there was still a scant window for healthy reproduction.
“I didn’t want to. I really wanted to keep her.” She bowed her head. “My mother had to take her right out of my arms. It was all I could do not to stop her.” Arthur was amazed, Josephine Dyer, toughest, meanest woman in her department, the woman who seemed to zoom up the corporate ladder, now here, totally bare, looking at this little baby. No one would believe that her face could contain so much emotion. It didn’t matter, he would never tell them.
Arthur looked at Josephine’s naked face. “She’s beautiful.” He said. Josephine pressed her hands against the clear plastic and it stretched to her touch, forming a light layer over hands as she reached inside the sphere and stroked her daughters pink cheek.
“Do you want to touch her?” Josephine asked, the blue light reflecting up on her face.
“Go ahead.” she said. “I have to keep my hand on the sphere to give you access.”
“This is really-” he paused, searching for words. ” I’m very honored.” He pressed his hand against the clear plastic and it molded around him, stretching thin. His hand tingled. “It tickles.”
“That’s the stasis.” Josephine watched his face intently. “Go ahead, touch her.” Arthur touched the baby’s tiny arm, and though there was plastic between them, he felt like he could feel her delicate, perfect skin. Her hands were so small, and her fingernails were the tiniest human things he had ever seen. He was mesmerized.
“She really is very beautiful.” he said, withdrawing his hand. Josephine nodded, gazing into the sphere. Arthur put his arm around her.
“I miss her every day.” she said. “It’s why I don’t stop working, during all of those late nights and long hours, I just think about her, here, and I just keep going. Someday, when I have enough credit, I’m taking her out of here, partner or no. I don’t care what people say, I’m not going to wait till I get everything, I’m just waiting till I get enough for her.” Arthur looked at Josephine for a long time. He wondered if she could hear his heart thudding on his breastbone.
“Josephine, you are the most successful woman I know, you won’t have to wait much longer. You’ll have your daughter soon.” Arthur took a deep breath “If you want, you can have me too.” He felt his hands tremble as Josephine turned to face him.
She took his face in her hands and pressed her shaking lips hard against his cheek.
“Yes.” she whispered. “Yes.”